Is Helldivers 2 Worth It? Solo Player Experience, Server Problems, and More

Helldivers 2 is one of the hottest games of 2024, but is it worth it in its current state?

Helldivers 2
Photo: PlayStation

Since its launch on February 8, Helldivers 2 has become the talk of the gaming world. While the first Helldivers was seen as a fun cooperative action title, it never really rose above the level of a cult classic. Comparatively, Helldivers 2 is quickly setting both player count and sales records. It’s also getting people to talk about Starship Troopers again, which is an objectively great thing.

Yet, this is a strange instance where the question of Helldivers 2‘s “worth” is somewhat separate from the discussions of its quality or popularity. The game is in a rather odd position at the moment that could leave some who buy it and would otherwise enjoy it feeling like they wasted good money on one of the hottest games of 2024.

That being the case, it’s necessary to break down Helldivers 2‘s current situation and try to help explain who should buy the game now, who should wait to buy it, and who should pass on this experience entirely.

Helldivers 2: Cost and Microtransactions

Helldivers 2 is available for PlayStation 5 and Windows PC via Steam for $39.99. That price point is certainly drawing a lot of attention at a time when more and more major video games cost at least $70. There is also a premium version of Helldivers 2 (the “Super Citizen Edition”) available for $59.99 that comes with a series of in-game cosmetics, an in-game ship, the MP-98 Knight weapon, the “Super Citizen” in-game tag, access to Helldivers 2’s premium Battle Pass, and more.

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Yes, Helldivers 2 has a Battle Pass. Everyone who plays the game will have instant access to the game’s free Battle Pass (known as Warbonds), but you will need to pay an extra $10 (or buy the premium version of the game) to access its premium Battle Pass reward track. As is typically the case, that premium Battle Pass allows you to unlock additional items (cosmetics, gear, and other bonuses) as you progress which are not available via the free Battle Pass.

If you don’t want to spend real-world money on the premium Battle Pass, you can eventually unlock access to it by acquiring Super Credits found throughout Helldivers 2. Some of those Super Credits are acquired organically during missions while others can be acquired by trading in other in-game resources. Generally speaking, you can probably expect to unlock the premium Battle Pass via in-game resources after about 20-25 hours of gameplay. Of course, that estimate may vary depending on your luck and strategies. 

Finally, Helldivers 2 does include an in-game shop that offers additional opportunities to spend both in-game currency and real-world money. All of the current in-game store items that can be purchased with actual money are purely cosmetic, and the Helldivers 2 team has no plans to expand the in-game store to include any gameplay-impacting (aka “Pay to Win”) items at this time. 

How Long Does it Take to Beat Helldivers 2?

Helldivers 2 is a co-op multiplayer game that does not offer a single-player campaign or story mode option. Instead, it asks groups of up to four players to work together to complete a variety of objective-based missions that are constantly being refreshed in various ways. As such, it’s impossible to say how long it takes to beat Helldivers 2 since there is no agreed-upon way to measure what “beating” the game means. It can theoretically be played indefinitely without reaching an ending.

However, the average Helldivers 2 mission lasts about 10-30 minutes (depending on how many objectives you choose to complete). Furthermore, it will probably take you about 40-50 hours to reach the game’s Level 50 XP cap, though you will unlock most of the game’s significant progression-based bonuses (most notably, Stratagems) by Level 20. From there, you’re playing to acquire additional upgrades/unlockables and to enjoy the thrills of the game itself. 

Please also note that Helldivers 2 does not currently offer any PvP options and developer Arrowhead Studios has no plans on adding any competitive multiplayer options to the game at this time. Competitive multiplayer fans (or those who measure the value of a game based on its competitive options) may want to look elsewhere.

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Helldivers 2 Is One of the Most Entertaining Co-Op Action Games Ever

To get to the arguable heart of the matter, Helldivers 2 is one the best co-op action games ever made. If you love games like Left 4 Dead, Warhammer: Vermintide, or even the Borderlands series, there is a good chance you will love Helldivers 2’s core gameplay. Like those games, it emphasizes the thrills of working together to overcome seemingly impossible odds with a little help from a large collection of weapons, special abilities, and good old-fashioned perseverance.

Direct comparisons to great games aside, one of the things that makes Helldivers 2 so special is how it adds layers of modern complexity to such a fundamentally classic gaming experience. Jumping into a planet filled with enemies that need to be eliminated with the heaviest weaponry imaginable is the kind of thing gamers have been enjoying since the arcade age. There is a primal pleasure to the Helldivers 2 experience that the game doesn’t dilute by piling on a bunch of modern gaming glut (more on that in a bit). 

The complexity of that otherwise classic experience comes through the game’s difficulty. Helldivers 2 can be a punishingly difficult game. Dying often is an intended part of the game, and teammate respawns will not always be a reliable option. For that matter, your teammates can actively hinder your progress thanks to the game’s always-enabled Friendly Fire options. Yes, that means that your teammates can directly deal damage to you and will often do so thanks to the sheer chaos of the average mission. The only way to survive some of Helldiver 2‘s toughest missions is to work together, find the perfect loadout, and master the game’s mechanics.

While that level of difficulty will be offputting to some (especially if they don’t like relying on others), it ensures that every match remains thrilling. Between the countless variables that can play out between a party of four players in a given mission (and the game’s dynamic scenario adjustment technology), Helldivers 2‘s gameplay rarely falls into a rut. That thrill you feel when you first dive into the game is still there 30-40+ hours later. Your mileage may vary over a long enough period, but so far, Helldivers 2 dynamic depth and difficulty have allowed it to hold up in ways that we typically only see from competitive titles that inherently offer so many variables from match to match. 

Helldivers 2 Is a Live Service Game That Could Be Updated For Years To Come

Though many have hesitated to call Helldivers 2 a live service game, I think that’s largely because of the stigma associated with that tag. When we hear “live service,” we typically think of grindy games filled with microtransactions that are meant to be treated like second jobs. It’s an earned stigma in most cases, but it is a stigma.

For the most part, Helldivers 2 avoids most of those negative associations. There are technically microtransactions in the game, though they are largely limited to more cosmetic options. Besides, it’s surprisingly easy to unlock “premium” items by playing a game that is often incredibly enjoyable in the first place.

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So far as that goes, Helldivers 2 is one of the most notable recent examples of a game that uses item unlocks to organically encourage and reward replaying it rather than to push more malicious microtransactions. Many of those in-game unlockables also expand the Helldivers 2 experience in some way by allowing you to experiment with new strategies. It speak to the value of unlock and progression systems when they are implemented with substance in mind rather than pure monetization.

What we’re left with is a game that the Helldivers 2 team intends to update regularly for the foreseeable future but feels pretty complete as a standalone release. Very few are already begging for anything more than what Helldivers 2 has to offer out of the gate but the game will conceivably grow to offer significantly more in the coming weeks, months, and possibly even years. That may sound like such a simple concept, but in the age of live service titles that essentially function as elaborate early access titles, getting a fairly complete game like Helldivers 2 that will only be expanded upon from here is a shockingly novel concept that deserves to be celebrated from a sheer value standpoint. 

Helldivers 2 Is a Mixed Experience For Most Solo Players

Helldivers 2 doesn’t offer any kind of traditional solo story/campaign mode, so when we talk about playing the game by yourself, we’re talking about two things: playing with random players via matchmaking or avoiding the game’s “requirements” by hopping into group content by yourself. 

So far as that goes, it’s honestly not worth playing Helldivers 2 entirely by yourself. Some of the game’s most challenging content is pretty much impossible for a solo player to beat, which means that parts of the game will essentially be inaccessible to them. The content you can play by yourself and theoretically survive is intense and can be enjoyable if you enjoy the core Helldivers 2 experience, but it’s difficult to imagine someone justifying even the lower cost of this game if you never intend to play with others.

Every noteworthy aspect of Helldivers 2 was meant to be experienced with a party of players, and the solo experience (such as it is) reflects that design intent. It’s better than if you had to play something like Overcooked or Left 4 Dead by yourself, but even at $40, it’s a tough sell. 

Matchmaking with random players is what makes the solo experience (or at least the solo queue experience) such a mixed bag. Like so many other cooperative games, how much you get out of the average Helldivers 2 match can depend on the quality of your teammates. If you get matched with a teammate (or two, or three) that doesn’t know what they’re doing or constantly gets you killed (directly/indirectly, intentionally/unintentionally), there’s a good chance you’re going to have a bad time. 

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On the other hand, those kinds of things have rarely happened in my experience with the game thus far. You can get teammates of varying quality, but everyone doing their part (Starship Troopers pun intended) will at least lead to a round that feels “competitive” in the PvE sense of the word. Most players are trying to do their best at the moment, and even the natural variances in what their best looks like can lead to genuinely exciting moments. The risk of random teammates running your fun is always there, but it’s not anywhere near as bad as it is in something like Overwatch where the PvP elements of a cooperative experience can quickly create a toxic environment. 

However, there is a much bigger problem with Helldivers 2’s matchmaking at the moment…

Helldivers 2 Server Problems Are Preventing Many From Playing the Game As Intended

Helldivers 2’s servers are an absolute nightmare at the moment, and there is no nice way to discuss the severity of that problem without diminishing its potential impact. 

Yes, Helldivers 2’s server issues are currently being caused by the game’s entirely unexpected success. Helldivers 2 logged an astonishing 400,000 concurrent players via Steam at its peak over the weekend, and that number doesn’t account for the people playing the cross-platform game on PlayStation (arguably its “primary” platform). Helldivers 2 was seemingly never intended to support as many people as an MMORPG (or pseudo-MMO live service experience), and its developers never thought this many people would play the game so soon after its release. 

While that rise in popularity speaks to the game’s quality, that’s cold comfort for those currently struggling to log in to the title or navigate its many matchmaking woes. Simply put, if you try to play Helldivers 2 as it was intended (with other players) at the time you read this, there is a fairly good chance you will not be able to reliably do so. At the very least, you’ll find that it’s difficult to consistently hop into a match or stay in one long enough without running into a server disconnect issue. 

To make matters worse, we have no idea when these server issues are going to be fixed. While the Helldivers 2 team has made the game’s server stability their top priority (and recently issued a major update), they’ve been very open about the extent of the issue and have even had to cap the overall player count at 450,000 to offer temporary relief. We’ve seen this situation with other games, and it’s rarely resolved as soon as anyone would like.

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Even when the servers are opened up again, there are no guarantees regarding their short-term or long-term stability. Again, we’ve seen smaller games quickly reach unexpected levels of success, and eventual stability can sometimes come at a time when the popularity of that title begins to cool off. Even if that doesn’t happen, the fact that many are struggling to play Helldivers 2 at what could very well prove to be its popularity peak is obviously a notable issue at the moment.

Is Helldivers 2 Worth It?

Helldivers 2 is an incredible co-op multiplayer game that offers so much more than its budget $40 price point would suggest but is sadly not worth buying in its current state for many players.

If you’re willing to put up with log-in queues, server disconnects, and are reasonably confident that you might be able to regularly play with a group of friends, then you can certainly justify buying Helldivers 2 right now. It will not be an entirely smooth experience, but patient players who intend to hop in with known squadmates and are perhaps willing/able to dodge the game’s peak hours will certainly get the most out of Helldivers 2 in its current state. 

Beyond that, recommending Helldivers 2 becomes gradually more difficult. If you’re relying on Helldivers 2’s built-in matchmaking system and can reasonably only try to play the game during peak hours (evenings and weekends, specifically), then you might have a bad time or no time with the game at all. That’s just the state of the servers at the moment, which is a shame given the quality of the actual Helldivers 2 experience and how many people would probably fall in love with the game if they were simply able to play it in the first place. There is currently a less than 100% chance you will be able to play Helldivers 2 when you’d like to and as you’d like to. Until that number creeps up to 99-100%, then it’s difficult to simply recommend this game from a sheer value perspective no matter how much I’d like to do so. 

Helldivers 2 is an incredible game that will undoubtedly go down as one of the year’s best. If it appeals to you, then you should absolutely consider buying it once its current players report that the game’s worst server issues are a thing of the past. Until then, those without $40 to burn are probably better off waiting.